Article By: Paul Wideman, Bare Knuckle Choppers
Photos By: Chris Callen
In the ‘70s and early ‘80s, Howie Huellen had the world by the curlies. Howie was playing in a rock band, traveled the countryside on a killer Pan/Shovel chop, and had a beautiful wife with a baby on the way. Things could not get any better. Howie was living it man. Then, suddenly, his life was turned upside down.
Howie and his wife, Susan, were out on his chopper when they were struck from behind by a drunk driver in a cage. Susan and their unborn child were killed immediately; she literally saved Howie’s life. The chopper was dragged away and put into storage while Howie set out on the long road to recovery. The bike has forever been a huge part of the man’s life, but it was a part that Howie chose to set aside for some time. A lot of thinking needed to be done, as well as a lot of healing.
Twenty-fve years later, Howie met Steve Peffer from Steel City Choppers at a show. He knew that Steve had the credentials and the know-how to put his crippled chopper back on the road. The biggest thing though, is Steve respects what the old bike was, and still is, and Howie knew Steve would do the bike the justice it deserved.
When the bike got to Steve’s shop, the rear was completely mangled. The frame was tweaked, the rim was blown completely from the hub, and all of the accessories were rendered useless. That’s not to say the parts were scrapped; no, each part that came from the original was saved, and sits in Steve’s shop today.
As the build got going, the two knew they wanted to keep the bike’s spirit intact, but a few minor updates and even a change or two were in order. Howie always wanted a slick looking Springer for the chop. The narrow Paughco covered in inch deep chrome did the trick and replaced the old narrow glide. Of course with the new Springer comes the need for new brakes, so a pair of tried and
true PM calipers was hung from either side of the Springer’s rails. Jumping to the back of the bike, Steve laced up a new star hub/wheel to accommodate the drum hub, just as the original sported. The simple flat chopper fender was accented by the new sissybar Steve bent up.
Digging further in, you’ll notice that there’s a little something extra tucked between the oil bag and the transmission; yep, a starter. As Howie enjoys the youth of his 50s, he also enjoys the ease of hitting a button to fire up the old flatside. Tech Cycle supplied the electric start belt drive gear, as well as the starter. While converting 4 speeds and generator motors to electric start has been around for some time, none do it as well as the kit from Jay and the Tech crew. I’ve used them numerous times, and this is one kit that is actually all-inclusive. After that button is pushed, it’s up to the points’ distributor and S&S L series carb to do the rest. Steve says the chop is a beauty to ride, running strong and crisp every time he’s on it.
Rounding off the build, Steve took some of the bright work from the engine and tranny and hand-hammered the copper plating to add a very well done dimension to the appearance of the bike. The tones add a whole new depth, making it look richer and just damn cool. Kinda makes you think, man, this bike has been places. Steve also turned down the super cool brass foot pegs for the forward controls. As for the paintwork, Howie always bragged about how the girls could use his tank as a mirror when combing his hair because the paint was that deep and shiny. Steve laid down the thick, deep blue and then coat after coat of clear to make this baby shine just like she did in her heyday.
Howie, needless to say, was ecstatic with the outcome.
Howie is completely happy with the bike, and he well should be. He has ridden it only once, however, as it is still a sharp memory every time he swings his leg over the seat. The bike stays mainly at Steve’s place, and oftentimes Steve and Howie will ride side by side; Howie on his cruiser and Steve on the chopper. Howie is now remarried, and his seven children are very into the bike as well. He loves telling stories of the old days, running around raising hell, playing in a killer band, even occasionally getting arrested. And as the paint tells you, the bike is dedicated to the memory of Susan Feather.
Steve dedicated the bike to Susan, as well as Howie and all the other cats back in the day that lived the life of the tramp. Steve is a very talented dude, one that has been around for a while now, and the man can build, rebuild or fabricate anything. But in the case of a bike like this, he has the sense, and respect, to know that the bike and its history are way bigger than any one individual. He was proud to preserve the bike’s personality, as well as the biker persona it exemplifies. I think a lot of people could take a page from Steve’s book in this respect.
Way back shovel tech sheet
Owner: Howie Huellen
city: Butler, PA
Fabrication by: Steel City Choppers
Model: Pan/Shovel time: 1 Year value: Your Life
year: 1950 Model: FL builder: Steel City Ignition: Mallory Displacement: 80 Pistons:
heads: Shovel cam(s): Andrews B carb: S&S L
air cleaner: Swiss Cheese
Primary: 1 1/2 Belt
year: 1970s make: Jammer Rake: 32 stretch: None
type: Sringer builder: Paughco extension: 2” Over triple trees:
Front Wheel: Twisted Spoke
brakes: Dual Disc PM
Rear Wheel: Twisted Spoke
tire: Avon Speedmaster
brakes: HD Drum Baby Drum
Painter: Steel City Steve color: Cobalt Blue type: PPG
chroming: Paul’s Chrome-Evan City, PA
bars: 12” Mini Apes Risers: Stubby hand controls: PM
Gas tank(s): Mustang
Front Fender: Stoneman Custom Rear Fender: Trailer Fender seat: Queen
Foot controls: Brass Chica oil tank: Horseshoe Mirrors: Maltese
speedo: What? taillight: Choppers, Inc headlight: Paughco
photographer: Chris Callen
Cycle Re-sources: Steel City Choppers Butler, PA